NFL to track players with wearable sensors

TV coverage to benefit from unprecedented on-field data
NFL players to be tracked with wearables

The National Football League (NFL) is introducing wearable sensors into player's shoulder pads to collect unprecedented levels of in-game data.

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The coin-sized sensors will be able to collect a host of data about the player's movements and performance, from speed, distances, separation and a host of other stats that should get any fan's American football juices flowing.

Zebra Technologies is handling this sensor integration, using radio-frequency identification (RFID) to completely change the way fans can enjoy the games. However, the first phase of the trial will be limited to 17 stadiums.

"What you're going to see is touchpoints that happen throughout the league," Vishal Shah, the NFL's VP of business development, told USA Today.

"Certainly, the most comprehensive and impactful might be to the fans themselves. But it's going to touch areas of our league and give us a deeper understanding of our game."

While TV broadcasters can already track information like total distance run by players, the sensors will mean they can break down performance in much more detail. Insights on tactics, and whether players are flagging in energy or upping their effort levels promise to add a whole new dimension to coverage.

For the foreseeable future, the real-time data will only be given to broadcasters, which means fans will be the ones to benefit from the added insights. Teams are being left out of the equation for now, at least until a full NFL-wide rollout.

Wearable sensors into sport have been slowly evolving over the past year, with Adidas' miCoach Smart Ball, just one example of how adding technology can enhance your game. However, uptake by professionals has been limited.

The NFL has already started to talk about expanding the sensors to player's helmets, to try and gain more information about player's brain injuries that have plagued the sport for years.

Hopefully when other sports see the enhancements to spectator's enjoyment in the NFL, wearable tech will be adopted more freely.


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